6. “It’s You”- Duck Sauce

“Everybody loves Duck Sauce, is this amazing or is this amazing?” says the Barbra Streisand impersonator on her character’s namesake’s music video. She’s pretty much correct; do you know anybody who doesn’t like “Barbra Streisand?” It was the perfect mix of undeniable EDM and ironic cool that comes with Babs’s seal of approval (whether she gave it or not; I’m sure she loves it). Even if that’s the only Duck Sauce one knows, it’s enough to know one loves it.

With that said, I’m not sure why “It’s You” didn’t blow up this year like its predecessor. Duck Sauce is one of the few EDM artists statesiders can cling to with pride, and a song that successfully mixes saran-wrap scratches with doo-wop is as American as Kraft cheese over pecan pie. To complete the circle, the New York City boys pair their brilliant track with a bonkers music video set in an urban barber shop. Was there a song this year that more loudly screamed AMERCIA? Has there been a better dance song we’ve put out on this side of the Atlantic?

5. “I”- Perfect Pussy

In an interview with Jeff Mangum for Puncture Magazine, the interviewer Mike McGonigal, in reference to Neutral Milk Hotel’s music, had this to say: “And this is part of what I dislike about the “lo-fi” tag, because it just seems really inexact and inaccurate…I see that as being a choice rather than a necessity.” I’d like to think that Syracuse’s Perfect Pussy has the same mindset regarding their own brand of garage punk, but considering they have the most un-Google-able name in the business, lo-fi is probably the one and only-fi they can afford to use. And that’s okay, because the band sounds tremendous over their one track, their singer’s (no names: un-Google-able) tremendous wail losing itself in a power-pop majesty and energy that does not cease past the 45 seconds their punk forbearers could hold it. Punk as a movement is the most invisible it has ever been since it shocked the world in 1976, but I’d argue that the music has never been better if a band like Perfect Pussy can one-up Siouxie and the Banshees without even disclosing their names on the Internet.

4. “The Wire”- Haim

Let’s see, what do we know about Haim…well, they were on SNL…they play rock ‘n roll…umm…and THEY’RE GIRLS. SLIMY SISTERS WITH COOTIES AND TENTACLES. Fine, I know it’s crass to point that out, but we’re still in the 21st century and it’s still a necessary distinction, especially in a music industry that doesn’t take kindly to ladies who don’t strip half-naked for music videos and suggestively ride wrecking balls on national television (full disclosure: I like that song). The band is composed of the sisters Alana, Danielle, and Este Haim, they all take turns singing (occasionally doing a glorious three-part harmony), and they all sound like Stevie Nix. When they play their instruments, they sound like a Steely Dan revival group or Prince’s backing band. It’s fair to call them a reincarnation of Fleetwood Mac, it’s fair to call them the best girl group since The Breeders, but it makes more sense just to call their new album the best rock debut since Foster the People got everyone dancing in 2011. And hey…would you look at that…they’re both from Los Angeles! Coincidence?

3. “Acrylics”- TNGHT

Right before I showed him this song, my friend Anthony said to me, “The big name festival DJs must have it easy. We pay hundreds of dollars to watch them press play on stage.” It was more fuel to add to my disdain for American EDM (it sucks), but it spurred a bit of a pause before I played the song. These guys aren’t American, I thought to myself, they can’t be, they’re too good.

Thankfully, they’re not. Hudson Mohawk is Scottish and Lunice is Canadian, and though they are successful DJs in their own sphere, together they take their love of trap and make a full-blown performance out of it. “Acrylics” doesn’t artificially build tension, it grasps and confuses the listener with what sounds like the most sinister music box ever constructed, suddenly turning into a charnel house of strobes and anxiety, not allowing the listener to pause, until finally the build gives way to the music box, that melody that must have been constructed by a Disney villain, and everything seems calm but nothing seems right, and then the song actually pauses, and for a moment nobody knows exactly what to expect…UNTIL IT EXPLODES INTO A TORNADO OF ELBOWS AND FURY, REFUSING TO GIVE WAY TO ANYTHING IN FRONT OF IT LIKE BO JACKSON IN TECMO BOWL OR THAT GIANT ROCK IN INDIANA JONES, AND IT DOESN’T STOP UNTIL EVERYONE IS HAPPILY BATHED IN A PILE OF THEIR OWN SWEAT/PHLEGM/BLOOD AND APPRECIATION FOR THE MUSIC GODS FOR FINALLY GIVING THEM SOME ELECTRONIC MUSIC TO MOSH TO…and then the glorious process repeats. I’d be happy to watch them press play any day.

2. “Chain Smoker”- Chance The Rapper

Chance the Rapper is an excellent singer, maybe not in the classical sense, but in the sense that when you hear Chance sing, you likely don’t have the sudden urge to switch stations like you would for J Cole or Big Sean. Chance is an equally fantastic rapper, but when Chance raps, we can only hear his pain. When he sings, we feel his demons circling around his brain like the peak of a bad trip alone in a warehouse of strobe lights and destitution. “Chain Smoker” both articulates his pain and demonstrates the main points of most Chance songs: he does a lot of drugs (“sun jammin’ on the chair/ rappin’/ trappin’/ trippin’/ sippin’/ sniffin’ glue and chewin’ Vicodin”), he’s dangerously self-aware (“last chance joint/gotta be a dance joint/with an introspective drugged-out standpoint”), and he fears death (“a lotta n—– try’na go out with a bang/but I ain’t try’na go out at all), all done with a flow that would petrify most new rappers. Supporting Chance’s mania is Peter Cottontale, whose acid jazz foundation lays down a full instrumentation worthy of the celestial bodies around which it inhabits. And as Chance’s heart-wrenching hook rises like a vortex around Cottontale’s crescendo, so arrives his inevitable and euphoric release. Go ahead, sing along: “This part! / Right here! / Right now! / Right here! / This part MY SHIT!”


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